Best Of '99: Ian Astbury Revives Cult With Plans For Tour, New LPs

Frontman for reunited hard rockers says they're geared up for albums, North American and worldwide outings.

[Editor's note: Over the holiday season, SonicNet is looking back at 1999's top stories, chosen by our editors and writers. This story originally ran on Tuesday, July 6.]

Ian Astbury, lead singer for the Cult, says an upcoming 27-date North American

tour is only the beginning of the reunited hard-rock band's return to

the business of making music.

The singer explained that the group, which has been dormant for more

than four years, plans to record an album prior to launching a world

tour and then will likely head back into the studio to make a second

record.

"We'll go into a studio and make a record, and after that we'll go on a world tour, and after that we'll probably go and make another record," Astbury, 37, said. "This is long-term. We're completely committed to the band."

With his "personal blackness" behind him, Astbury and original Cult guitarist Billy Duffy have re-formed their influential band with longtime Cult drummer Matt Sorum — who also has played in Guns n' Roses — and ex-Porno for Pyros bassist Martyn LeNoble. The same lineup will record the album.

The Cult — who combined heavy metal, goth rock and post-punk with

lyrics inspired by mysticism and social and political ideologies —

broke up following a gig in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in March 1994. The

group "just ran out — it just imploded," Astbury said.

Astbury went on to play in a bar band called the Holy Barbarians and recorded a solo album, while Duffy spent his time away from the Cult playing in Miles Hunt's Vent 414 as well as working on a solo project.

The time away has not created any bitterness in the heart of Cult fan

John Taylor of Victoria, British Columbia, who runs a fan website. He

said Astbury and Duffy's time away from the group served a purpose.

"I've been impressed at the out-of-Cult work that both Ian and Billy have done — some very impressive work," Taylor, 28, wrote in an e-mail. "They've shown everyone they can do it on their own, and do it well. But when you put them together, well, it's just electric."

It was in 1997, Astbury said, that he realized he missed playing in a band again. At the time he was recording his solo album, Natural Born Guerrilla, scheduled for release on Beggars Banquet in the fall.

"I began to see this gaping hole which wasn't being fulfilled by doing

a solo record, and I just really missed working with Billy and playing

with Billy and being a part of the Cult and playing those songs," Astbury

said (RealAudio excerpt of interview).

After finishing his album, Astbury took time to travel, venturing to Cuba,

Nepal and Tibet. The experience brought his desires to re-form the band

into clearer focus.

"What I really wanted to do was just get into the studio with a band,

with a four-piece guitar-based rock 'n' roll band, and I thought, 'What

was the point of putting one together when I was in one of the best rock

'n' roll bands,' you know?" he said. "I couldn't think of anybody else

I wanted to play with. I just wanted to go back to the Cult" (RealAudio excerpt of interview).

The Cult's origins date back to 1981, when Astbury, the son of a merchant

who grew up as something of a vagabond, showed up homeless on Duffy's

doorstep in London.

Duffy left his band, Theater of Hate, to team with Astbury and form the atmospheric post-punk group Death Cult, spawned out of Astbury's previous band, Southern Death Cult. After shortening its name to the Cult, the group released its debut album, Dreamtime, in 1984. Love followed in 1985 and featured the hits "She Sells Sanctuary" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Revolution."

Their breakthrough came with the Rick Rubin–produced Electric, spawning the singles "Wild Flower" and "Love Removal Machine" (RealAudio excerpt). Sonic Temple (1989), Ceremony (1991) and The Cult (1994) followed.

And though the group's history dates back nearly two decades, Astbury said he felt a firm conviction that he and Duffy still have music to make.

Through mutual acquaintances, each heard the other was interested in playing together again. But it wasn't until shortly before an April 5 reunion at the Viper Room in Los Angeles that they talked seriously about becoming a band again.

At that show, the pair, joined by Sorum and members of his side-project supergroup the Neurotic Outsiders, performed the Cult tunes "Wild Flower" and "Love Removal Machine."

"It felt completely natural to be doing it," Astbury said about playing with Duffy again. "It didn't feel rusty, it didn't feel unfamiliar, it didn't feel uncomfortable. I felt completely exulted by the whole experience. It was a real rush doing it. The adrenaline was right there. The energy was very, very intense.

"Certainly the Viper Room show with the Neurotics [was] a great indication of the fact that we should be doing this live immediately" (RealAudio excerpt of interview).

The Cult later performed their first full reunion show at the Casbah in San Diego, followed by two more at the Viper Room, and performed at the fourth Tibetan Freedom Concert in East Troy, Wis., June 13. Their full-length tour kicks off at the Warfield Theater in San Francisco on July 15.

"We just want to go out for people who followed the band forever and

just sort of honor them and honor ourselves — re-oil our wheels,"

Astbury said (RealAudio excerpt of interview).

The new foursome recently recorded a cover of the Doors' "Wild Child"

with that band's former keyboardist, Ray Manzarek, for an upcoming Doors

tribute album due later this year.

Though they have not written any new songs, Astbury said he expects

material will rise out of soundchecks and jamming on the road, eventually

turning up on the setlist. The singer said he envisions the Cult's sound for the future as "a lot of riff-driven, high-energy rock 'n' roll."

"We're not going to try to reiterate what we did in the '80s or the early '90s," Astbury said. "But I think the way we're going to look and the things that we're going to create are going to be very contemporary."

The Cult tour dates:

July 15; San Francisco, Calif.; Warfield Theater

July 17; Seattle, Wash.; Paramount Theatre

July 18; Portland, Ore.; Roseland Ballroom

July 20; Salt Lake City, Utah; Kingsbury Hall

July 21; Denver, Colo.; The Fillmore

July 23; Kansas City, Mo.; Uptown Theatre

July 24; Minneapolis, Minn.; The Quest

July 26; Chicago, Ill.; House of Blues

July 27; Columbus, Ohio; Newport Music Hall

July 29; Detroit, Mich.; Clutch Cargo

July 30; Toronto, Ontario; The Warehouse

July 31; Cleveland, Ohio; Agora Theater

Aug. 2; Boston, Mass.; Avalon Ballroom

Aug. 3; New York, N.Y.; Roseland Ballroom

Aug. 4; Washington, D.C.; 9:30 Club

Aug. 6; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; House of Blues

Aug. 7; Atlanta, Ga.; The Tabernacle

Aug. 9; New Orleans, La.; House of Blues

Aug. 10; Houston, Texas; Ariel Theater at Bayou Place

Aug. 11; Dallas, Texas; Bronco Bowl

Aug. 13; Phoenix, Ariz.; Celebrity Theatre

Aug. 14; Las Vegas, Nev.; The Joint

Aug. 15; San Diego, Calif.; 4th & B

Aug. 19-22; Los Angeles, Calif.; House of Blues